UVa Counsel Opines on Free Speech

The “F— UVa” sign on the door of a University of Virginia resident of the Lawn violates no university policy and is protected by the First Amendment, concluded University Counsel Timothy J. Heaphy. However, a new policy banning all signs on lawn room doors could pass constitutional muster if applied prospectively instead of retrospectively.

“A new policy banning signs would also maintain the historic character of the Lawn, consistent with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” Heaphy opined in a letter addressed to university Rector James B. Murray Jr. on Sept. 29. “Students would have ample other opportunities to exercise free speech even if they could not post signs on their doors.”

However, he warned, “a blanket rule against all posters would be overinclusive, as it would remove the ability of any lawn resident to use his or her prominent
residence as a forum to promote events, highlight activities, or show support for particular perspectives or ideas.” Read the full BOV Statement in support of Ryan.

Bacon’s bottom line: Heaphy’s argument against restricting free speech makes sense to anyone who reveres the U.S. Constitution. I just wonder how long the logic would hold up if someone posted “Blue Lives Matter” or “Make America Great Again” on a door sign on the Lawn. Can anyone be found to do such a thing? It would make an instructive experiment.
The real issue, as we’re seeing it play out across Virginia, is that some peoples’ freedom of speech matters more than others. Perhaps Mr. Heaphy could be induced to examine the Loudoun County Public School system’s draft professional conduct policy that would forbid school employees from saying anything on social media that not aligned with the School Board’s “goal to root out systemic racism.”

— JAB

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